22 May 2012

Just Like Heaven (starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo)

I really don't know how 'Just Like Heaven' arrived on my Amazon wishlist. Perhaps it was recommended to me as a 'romantic comedy', since I tend to like that genre of movie. It can't have been due to the actors involved, since I didn't know of any of them. I was given it for my birthday, and we watched it last night.

The film opens with several scenes from a busy hospital, showing Elizabeth (brilliantly played by Reese Witherspoon) as a young, keen doctor who is extremely good with patients, but lives as a workaholic, devoting far too many hours to her career with no social life at all.

Her sister Abby (Dina Waters) wants to set her up with a date, but Elizabeth doesn't think she has time. However, she finally finishes her 26+ hour shift, and sets off in the rain, talking on her mobile phone... and, unsurprisingly, a terrible crash happens.

I hadn't read any summaries of the plot, which meant that I was a little confused when the action switched to that of a young landscape gardener called David (Mark Ruffalo) looking for an apartment to rent. He finally chooses one he likes - after fate takes something of a hand - but after settling down finds himself apparently haunted by the previous owner - Elizabeth - who is convinced that she has not in fact died - although she can't remember much at all about her life.

They begin with hostility, each claiming ownership of the flat, which gradually turns to wary friendship. David agrees eventually to try and find out who Elizabeth is and what happened to her... and while the ending is somewhat predictable, the route to get there is sometimes unexpected, sometimes amusing, sometimes quite thought-provoking.

The chemistry between the two main cast works extremely well, and there are some excellent supporting actors too. The whole is only an hour and a half long, but I felt quite drawn into the story, wondering what the outcome would be, almost believing in the somewhat unlikely plot premise.

The UK rating is PG, which seemed about right - there's nothing explicit, and almost no bad language, although there are some implied sexual references. The US rating is a somewhat stricter PG-13.

Overall. we both enjoyed it very much. The DVD comes with extras including a 'making of', 'meet the cast', and some deleted scenes.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

08 May 2012

Pretty Woman (starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere)

Years ago someone suggested I might like the film 'Pretty Woman'. I didn't really know anything about it, but like Julia Roberts as an actress, and so it went on our wishlist. And sat on our unwatched-DVD-shelf for probably a couple of years before we decided to see it earlier this week.

What an incredible film it is! It's basically the story of a somewhat ruthless American millionaire  businessman who stops to ask for directions in a backstreet, and ends up paying for the services of a prostitute for a week. Which sounds extremely sordid.. but isn't. In fact it's rather less sordid than the 1960s film 'Never on Sunday', which is only rated PG in the UK, and not at all in the US.  By contrast, 'Pretty Woman', which likewise implies 'adult' content, is rated 15 in the UK and an even stricter R (18) in the US.  Yet there are no explicit scenes, no full-frontal nudity, almost no violence (certainly nothing gory), and surprisingly little bad language. Had we been the censors, we would have opted for '12' (or PG-13) on both.

As for the film itself - Richard Gere stars as the wealthy Edward, but was in my view one of the weaker characters. He's not bad - but his character didn't seem much different from that of the journalist in Runaway Bride.  He's quite likeable, but I never found him entirely believable either as a cutthroat businessman, or as someone likely to hire a prostitute - though he does express reservations for a while.

However,  Julia Roberts as Vivian is absolutely incredible. She totally makes this film, and apparently it's a significant role in terms of turning her into a star. I'm not surprised. When we first meet her on the streets, it was difficult even to recognise her.  Then the changes in her as she enjoys a life of luxury for a week are gradual but realistic.. and while the ending is perhaps a little surreal, it's eminently satisfying.

We thought that Hector Elizondo as the discreet hotel manager Barney was also excellent. His expressions were exactly right, his attitude to Vivien refreshing, and he was responsible for several lightly humorous moments in this film which we greatly appreciated.

I have to admit that it took me until the following morning to realise that the story is, essentially, that of Pygmalion - or the better-known 'My Fair Lady', set in 1990s Los Angeles... I assume that the title 'Pretty Lady', which out of context is rather feeble, was deliberately intended as a connection to the musical.

Overall, the pace is great, the story powerful and the directing works very well. I found this film totally engrossing once I got into it, and am only sorry we didn't see it sooner!

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews